‘His Career Was a Failure but of the Most Glittering Kind.’ Is This a Fair Assessment of Hannibal? Analyse Hannibal’s Greatness and the Reasons for His Ultimate Failure.

Topics: Roman Republic, Roman Empire, Ancient Rome Pages: 5 (1874 words) Published: August 24, 2011
At the end of Hannibal’s career as a military commander of Carthage, a main enemy of Rome, it can be said that his career was a failure as he did not achieve his primary objective, the taking of Rome. However, his military achievements glittered and shone because he struck fear into Rome and he also earned himself a place in the modern world as the father of strategy. Hannibal will always be remembered and regarded as one of the greatest military tacticians and strategists in all of European history and is considered one of the greatest generals of the Ancient World. It was his superior strategy and tactical skills that allowed him to compete with and almost defeat Rome, but this greatness prevented him achieving his ultimate goal, because he could not take the major military risk that was actually required to defeat Rome when it was in a weakened state. For this reason, it a fair assessment to say that Hannibal’s career was a failure but of the most glittering kind, because while he failed to take Rome, he left a substantial legacy that was even more important in terms of the shaping of the ancient world. Hannibal’s greatness is revealed as a military tactician, strategist and logistics expert. He excelled in these areas, and this is best demonstrated at the battle of Cannae. Coming up against a superiorly sized Roman army who were hoping to gain success through pure strength in numbers. “While the Romans enjoyed a superiority over Hannibal in terms of numbers, they nonetheless lacked a great deal in terms of competent leadership and experience.” (Hannibal Crosses the Alps, 2001, pg. 187) However, Hannibal used brilliant tactics, and with a vast inferiority in numbers Hannibal’s forces were able to surround and destroy all but a small remnant of his enemy “Roman military power was utterly destroyed at Cannae” (Ancient Rome: Using Evidence, 1990, p.150). The superiority in tactics that Hannibal showed at Cannae, caused the Roman’s to become very hesitant to confront Hannibal in military battle and as a result, Hannibal fought no more major battles in Italy for the rest of the war. Although, his tactics were second to none, Hannibal was perhaps greater in logistics and strategy. Against all odds Hannibal was constantly out matched by better soldiers whom were led by very respectable generals, yet he was able to hold his own and defied all their efforts to drive him from Italy and for 15 years he remained in the enemies land. “This was a tactical triumph.” (100 Great Military Commanders, 2004, pg. 14) These impressive achievements are ones to be marveled at, especially considering the lack of support he received from Carthage. His greatness was also demonstrated by his leadership abilities. When the Carthaginian government grudgingly provided Hannibal with new troops, this caused him to have to organize and create new soldiers on the spot and many of whom were not even Carthaginian such as the Gauls and Iberians. “Hannibal’s strategy was to march on foot to Rome while conquering new kingdoms on the way and recruiting addition soldiers. As he conquered new kingdoms, he increases the size of his army.” (The New Competitive Strategy, 2011, pg. 128) This in itself is a major achievement, to put people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures together and combine them into a fully fledge fighting army, but Hannibal was able to hold the reins of his troops, many of which may have been newly appointed to the army, and lead them to victory. This is confirmation of Hannibal’s leadership qualities and charisma that he had the ability to organise and motivate men from different races and languages for such a daring undertaking. His most impressive feat as a leader was leading his army up and through the Alps where they confronted hostile tribes, deep snow and icy winds which threatened to freeze his army to death. “Hannibal is best known for taking the Carthaginian army, over the Alps to attack Rome.” (100 Great Military...
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